In part 1 of this series, we discussed why we need a multi-tiered solution to building a good gluten free flour blend and ultimately successful gluten free recipes.
On their own, individual gluten free flour or components:
We also established that the basic formula for a good gluten free flour blend looks something like this:
Gluten Free Flour Blend = Primary flour + Secondary flour + Starch
And a good recipe will look like this:
Gluten Free Recipe = Gluten Free Flour Blend + Binder + Fat + Protein + Liquid
Finally we learnt that just as there are different types of regular wheat flour blends, e.g. bread flour, cake flour or pastry flour, there must correspondingly be specific gluten free flour blends by application. Bread flour needs more protein than cake flour because it needs a stronger support structure.
This last fact is very important because in spite of the claims gluten free 1 to 1 flour or all purpose flour blends cannot perform successfully in every type of recipe without “help”.
How to Make a Good Gluten Free Bread Flour Blend
We will be focusing on yeasted bread for now. What are the characteristics of a good loaf of bread?
The issue of crust, crumb and colour can largely be addressed by these factors:
Choosing the right gluten free flour
The addition of suitable non gluten forming proteins
Using the right amount of hydration
The quality and quantity of the leavening agent
Introducing a binding agent
Incorporating fat into the recipe
The right gluten free flour for making bread starts with a decent amount of protein. Non gluten proteins can hold water and stabilize starch gel formed during gelatinization. Their addition can also reduce amino acid deficits, making the bread healthier. Ultimately these proteins help with structure, color and texture producing a far more acceptable end product with a longer ‘shelf life”. Using my formula (see above) a bread flour blend will more than likely have 2 or more types of flour, one of which at the very least must be higher in protein. To balance out the blend and to produce a loaf with better texture you should also include one or more starches.
Sources of non gluten forming Protein in Gluten Free Bread
There are multiple ways to add non gluten forming proteins to your bread blend for e.g. via:
Higher Protein Flour
Liquid for e.g. dairy or non dairy milk
Let’s take a look at how some of my favorite and not so favorite gluten free flours stack up in terms of protein. Please note I am sharing what works for me, there are other successful formulas available and there are more gluten free flours on the market than I referenced. Also, my usability score is based on my experiences using various gluten free flours. The rankings are from 1 (great) -3 (not so much).
Flours that rank 3 on my usability score are more challenging to work with. In the wrong quantity they can negatively affect the crumb, taste and mouth feel of the bread. Unless you are a seasoned gluten free baker I suggest leaving them alone. We can also conclude that higher protein is not the only thing we must factor in when choosing which flour to use. How it behaves when water is added, the taste, the colour will also influence the choices we make.
I have highlighted the flours I use most often or those I stock in my pantry. While how well it works is one deciding factor, availability and my personal preferences with regard to taste carried a lot of weight. In other words you may not like what I like and that is okay, the goal here is to make it easier for you to make your own blend
Let’s look again at one of the bread flour blends I shared in Part 1 of this series. You can treat these percentages as universal formulas to help build your own blends from now on
Gluten Free Bread Flour Blend Formula
The primary flour is the one you want to use the most. You may choose this based on taste, colour or whatever criteria you wish as long as it is NOT a 3 on my usability scale. You can also use one secondary flour or two as is shown here. I may choose a secondary flour which is higher in protein if my primary flour is lacking. Generally though I am trying to pair flavours or textures that work well together. I would also take into consideration what I have learnt about how each flour behaves. For example I have given Almond Flour a usability score of 2. However, I have found it works better in cookies, brownies, sweet or quick breads and in small quantities for bread dough. With that information in mind I may choose to stay away from almond flour in my bread blend.
So continuing with the sample bread flour blend I’ve shared (option 1) what if I wanted to replace the Buckwheat flour? With all of the information we’ve discussed this far, you can use more oat flour and/or sorghum flour, why? Go back to the flour comparison table, buckwheat, oat and sorghum have very similar profiles making them easily interchangeable.
At this point I must reiterate that this is what works for me. There are many formulas out there, many different types of flour and many many more forms of non gluten forming proteins available. Eggs have proven to be exceptional at improving the texture and overall “acceptability” of gluten free bread which means you have more options (flour) to choose from. Dairy protein and whey isolates are also strong contenders. As a default I do not bake with eggs or dairy, so I have found other ways to get the results I want. Lastly there are new(ish) advances in the science of gluten free baking. For example there is a product called Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch (see also Ultratex) that works wonders on the textural quality of gluten free bread. I have used it with great success and at some point it may become a pantry staple
Ready for something more complicated? I have done a few more options of the gluten free bread flour blend using my “formula”.
The important takeaway here is that my “primary flour” accounts for 50% - 60% percent of my bread flour mix. At least 10% is a starch and the secondary flour/ starch is the difference. We will chat more about starches in another post. For now, note that tapioca starch is a more chewy, elastic starch and potato starch is a bit fluffier and can add moisture to baked goods (in many parts of the world, potato starch and potato flour are not the same, I am referring to potato starch only).
In addition to all of this I love adding ground flax or chia seeds to round off my recipe. Though these are good for binding and can be used as egg replacements, I use them because they are healthy and add a more robust bread flavour. In fact too much of either could be unpleasant. Read on and I’ll show you how the recipe comes together.
Moving from the bread flour blend to a gluten free bread recipe
A good gluten free bread recipe also follows this basic formula:
Gluten Free Bread Recipe = Gluten Free Flour Blend + Binder + Fat + Protein + Liquid
We will continue with Option 1 as our flour blend of choice. In this recipe xanthan gum does the binding, the oil is the main source of the fat, the non gluten protein is contributed mainly by the flour or milk if used and liquid is the water or milk. Resting the dough without leavening agents is a simple way to improve the quality of the finished product. Once you incorporate the yeast there is no need to let the dough rise twice as is the case with wheat flour.
This is undoubtedly a lot of information. As a start use the recipe below as is (no need to worry about the percentages) and see what results you get. Troubleshoot and tweak the recipe until it works for you. For example:
Dense loaf- may need more liquid (the dough will usually be wetter than regular wheat flour dough)
Gummy on the inside- bake for a longer time ( an hour or more is not uncommon)
Loaf sinks in the middle while baking- dough was proofed for too long (it does not get better the more you let it rise in the tin)
Baking tin is too big- the bread will spread out not up and the result may be a dense loaf
Baking tin is too small- the loaf will also be dense because the bread cannot rise over the tin without support
Generally unappealing after baking- use an oven thermometer to verify if your oven’s temperature is calibrated correctly
Once you’ve mastered the recipe as is, you can begin to manipulate the ingredients, preferably one at a time. Substitute ingredients that are similar in composition and similar based on what they do in the recipe. There are also ingredients that cannot be substituted 1:1, so do some research before making a decision. For example, can ground chia seeds be used as a 1 to 1 substitute for flaxmeal? The answer is, not all the time, chia is more gelatinous in water than flax and therefore stronger as a binding agent.
Everything I’ve shared including the percentages becomes easier to understand in time. Why? You will be doing the one thing this “how to essay” cannot teach and that is practicing. It is your willingness to persist, to make mistakes again and again that will eventually make you more confident and competent in the kitchen. You will begin to discover what flour or what brand you like and why. You will automatically develop your own “usability” score. And one day, if not now, you will explore other grains or legumes to incorporate into your baking.
I intend to share more information about starches, binders, ingredients in general. We will also explore a flour blend for more general purposes. Look out as well for tips and techniques to improve your baking (check out the Tangzong technique). My research continues so I will update this article if necessary, always striving to share more relevant, factual and useful information.
Send me a message or leave a comment below if you need anything clarified. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner
(this post was shared on Nov 25th, 2020)
Gluten Free and Vegan Bread Recipe
1¼ cup brown rice flour
½ cups buckwheat flour
½ cup oat flour
¼ cup tapioca starch
1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
1¼ tsp xanthan gum
2 tbsp ground flaxmeal
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tbsp baking powder
2½ tsp instant yeast
½ tsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil (I use coconut)
1¼ - 1½ cup warm water (105-115°F)* ½ tbsp vinegar
*You can use milk e.g. coconut milk instead of water
Making the Bread
In a bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients including the flaxmeal, use only 1/2 tsp of the yeast and none of the baking powder. Set aside
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients (except the vinegar), kneading or mixing until thoroughly combined. The dough should be slightly sticky but holding together and fairly easy to work with
Cover the bowl with cling wrap or other and set aside in a cool place to rest for about an hour. Resting the dough improves the texture of the finished loaf
At the end of the rest period add the rest of the yeast (2 tsp), the baking powder and mix or knead well. Add the vinegar and mix or knead again. The dough should be slightly sticky or shaggy but holding together (like a thick brownie batter, scoopable not pourable). Add more water or milk a little at a time if needed
Scoop the dough into a baking tin (approx 7 1/2"l x 4"w x 4.5"h internal measurements). You can smooth the top of the dough with the back of a spoon. Wet the spoon, it will be easier to work with
Allow the dough to rise just over the rim of the tin and no more (the bread can collapse if it rises too much)
Once the dough is in the tin, preheat oven to 350°F. When it is ready place the dough in the oven and bake for 50 minutes
After 50 minutes, lower the heat to 275 and bake for another 15 mins. After the 15 mins, turn your oven off and leave the bread there for another 15 mins, you can take the loaf out of the pan for this (if the bread feels really firm on all sides, especially the bottom of the loaf you can skip this step)
Cut the bread when it's completely cool. Store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for an extended period of time